Pasadena CA

IMG_1769.JPG

On my last day visiting my friend Stephanie, she had me meet her at a favorite coffee shop of hers in Old Town Pasadena. I was glad for some more hangs… The whole trip was last minute and it was so nice to be welcomed into Stephanie’s daily life with her friends and her local lifestyle of her favorite coffee shops for a few days.

IMG_1899.JPG

So we met at Copa Vida, definitely a coffee shop with classic style vibes, for some last convos.

IMG_1897.JPG

IMG_1768.JPG

Of course, I got coffee, and this Nutella croissant that the barista recommended to me.

IMG_1898.JPG

After coffee, we parted and I explored the area. I’ve come to appreciate exploring on my own in travel. I prefer experiencing a place with someone for the memories it makes, but a lot of time, travel means no alone time to have your thoughts to yourself and relax, so it was extremely nice to see this new place alone for a few hours.

IMG_1892.JPG

I found an Urban Outfitters… A favorite of mine. So I bought some “souvenirs.” Haha. I feel like during travel you have to pretend money isn’t an issue. It’s kind of nice to live like that for a few days before going back to reality.

IMG_1767.JPG

There were lots of great stumble upon spaces that day . Everything had great style, architecture and light. Like these shops with warehouse-esque style featuring high ceilings at Intelligencia, and her neighbor of various vendors selling pies, juices, etc.

IMG_1896.JPG

IMG_1895.JPG

Before she left, Stephanie had recommended wandering the alleys, so I did. Down one of the alleys, this juice bar was hiding.

IMG_1766.JPG

IMG_1891.JPG

And from this moment on, I was really into ginger lemonade. Seriously, the best, and I recommend it if you ever discover it somewhere. So glad I took that advice and looked through the alleys.

IMG_1765.JPG

Definitely loved Old Town Pasadena. One of Stephanie’s favorite cities became one of mine that day.

Costa Mesa CA – The Lab Anti-Mall and SoCo

I had come to town for a wedding of mutual friends of me and Emma. It was a great opportunity for a reunion with friends I had lived in Italy with. It was exciting to see Emma again since it had been six months since we were together in Italy. We started our few days together at The Lab: Anti-Mall. A small outdoor vintage boutique and restaurant mall.

IMG_1752.JPG

IMG_1754.JPG

We ate lunch at The Lab’s Gypsy Den where my old roommate from Italy, Amy, met us. It was so refreshing to be with both of them again. I had missed all our travel memories together so it was so great to reminisce and laugh together. And I should have gotten the nachos like Emma haha.

IMG_1753.JPG

I love going to Urban Outfitters and can’t get enough of it especially on vacation. Definitely hit it up a couple times with Emma, including after lunch at the Gypsy Den, where it was next door. It was such a surreal experience to shop with these friends that I had met and lived with in Italy. Urban Outfitters is such an American experience I had missed in Italy, and it was fun to have this American experience with these friends I’ve never experienced American culture with.

IMG_1762.JPG

On Saturday, we did the best thing possible: farmers marketing. Emma was the best host and local to welcome me into her daily life for a few days and take me around to her favorite cute spots. For our morning, we went to SoCo for their outdoor farmers market and indoor boutiques.

IMG_1764.JPG

We went through the farmers market booths and bought plums since Emma is obsessed and shopped through cute succulents.

IMG_1759.JPG

IMG_1761.JPG

Then we went indoors. A super cute space! We got coffee at Portola Coffee Lab, sat down to read for a bit (love friends to do that with!), and shopped through the boutiques.

IMG_1814.JPG

IMG_1813.JPG

IMG_1812.JPG

This vacation was the best for trying new pretty local craft coffee shops. Portola Coffee Lab was definitely a pretty one with good coffee.

IMG_1811.JPG

IMG_1756.JPG

IMG_1755.JPG

Berkeley CA

Berkeley was one day on a fourteen day vacation visiting friends around California.

And it was one of my favorite days. Because it included small downtown life walking and exploring with friends.

IMG_1748.JPG

Some days don’t go as planned in travel. This day had been such. I had Monterey on my list of travel plans, but due to schedules and availabilities, plans changed. And changed. The day of, we had the chance to go to Monterey, but I remember feeling so lazy and tired that day haha. And I’ve learned to not force things. Especially in travel. Enjoy the moment. Miki was super great and looking up places for us to go that were closer than Monterey to us. I remember being unconcerned with what we did that day. Even giving her final decision. She had found a festival in Berkeley and decided we could try that.

The festival was small, but the chance to explore this town by foot made some of my favorite memories of my whole vacation. I’ll fall for any small downtown city life, that comes with lots of locals who’s lifestyle is walking, and where the chances on stumbling onto a gem, are countless and often. I love everything about downtowns. And when I get the chance, I try to take on that lifestyle for a few months at a time. I would add Berkeley to that list if I had ever had the chance to study there.

IMG_1746.JPG

The festival was cute, and entertained us for 10 minutes with live music. Then we moved on and stumbled on some vintage global stores. Berkeley was soon obvious to be all about a hippie style.

IMG_1791.JPG

My friend Mallory had heard of a popular market that was set up on the other side of Berkeley so we got directions from someone on the street and walked the fifteen minutes to get there. It’s was an outdoor market that had booths with handmade arts set up along the street, all in hippie style with crocheted hats and handmade earrings, and such.

IMG_1790.JPG

Along the road were tons of cute bookstores and vintage shops.

IMG_1795.JPG

We even stumbled on an Asian bakery and made a spontaneous decision to stock up on egg tarts and pastries. Egg tarts have been a recent obsession of “must try” as I’ve been into Korean shows, and they had come up a lot in the last month. I developed a craving for them, though I had never tried, simply because I could imagine what they tasted like and seemed so culturally popular on the other side of the globe. Food is a great way to experience another culture when you haven’t had the opportunity to make it that far yet. And these egg tarts were nothing to disappoint, if anything, they confirmed the fact that Asia is a place I need to make it to, soon.

IMG_1747.JPG

But California is a great place to get a taste of Asian culture, as I discovered the large scope of influence, even in our next stop, which was mostly directed to my recent insomnia and dependence on caffeine.

IMG_1751.JPG

So on the way to Cheese Board Pizza, a place on me and Mallory’s list every time I visit, but never make it to, we stopped at Asha Tea House. I basically just looked up some local coffee places in the area on Maps. I try to go to places with a good reputation and good atmosphere, which from Yelp, this place had. And it definitely did. The spot was so classic and appealing visually.

IMG_1794.JPG

I got a Hong Kong iced coffee: iced coffee with condensed milk. As anything with condensed milk, it was delicious. And as with most coffee, it was totally efficient in waking me up for our last venture as we wandered into the gourmet ghetto. After all this time and finally making it to the Cheese Board, they were closed, so check their hours before you go, but I wasn’t left disappointed as it meant an unplanned dinner at Grégoire.

IMG_1743.JPG

Grégoire is a hole in the wall kitchen done well. Lots of great presentation, French inspired menu, indoor kitchen, and outdoor seating. All done right.

IMG_1750.JPG

Especially the garlic and parsley crispy potato puffs: deep fried mashed potato puffs. They are famous for their potato puffs.

IMG_1749.JPG

It is also worth noting that everything is offered as take out and the menu rotates monthly.

IMG_1792.JPG

Grégoire was the perfect end to our experience in Berkeley, especially as a foodie experience. I totally recommend it, and to find your own adventure there.

IMG_1796.JPG

Phoenix AZ – Latte Art Throwdown

IMG_1428.JPG

The coffee culture in Phoenix is growing and it’s exciting to watch. There’s usually a latte art competition once a quarter that always draws quite a crowd, as in this last week’s competition on November 6, 2014.

IMG_1468.JPG

IMG_1473.JPG

IMG_1471.JPG

Thirty-two local baristas came together to throw down for some amazing prizes sponsored by local and national coffee companies.

IMG_1439.JPG

IMG_1455.JPG

The event was organized by Perry Czopp who works hard at developing the Phoenix coffee culture and community. (If you are a Phoenix area local, he also partners with a couple friends in a cold brew delivery company called Silent Flight Coffee, that you should check out: www.SilentFlight.Coffee .)

IMG_1454.JPG

I had the privilege of being asked by Perry to judge at this competition. Such an honor to get to participate in this local coffee community event. I got to see first hand all the talent, and drink the cappuccino results along with all those who showed up.

IMG_1539.JPG

IMG_1419.JPG

Seriously, endless free cappuccinos made by the best of the best in Phoenix is reason enough to show up.

IMG_1469.JPG

IMG_1414.JPG

But it goes further. It’s about community.

IMG_1433.JPG

Showing up to this event meant for some of us hanging out with your coworkers who share the same passion as you, and for all of us, a reunion of all your barista and local friends.

IMG_1453.JPG

IMG_1452.JPG

One of my goals this year was to become more apart of the local community and coffee community, and since my first throwdown I attended in January in which I knew no one but those I came with, this goal has become a reality.

IMG_1445.JPG

I’ve made a lot of friends along the way, and this past week made some new ones.

IMG_1475.JPG

Friends that visit me while I barista, and friends I visit at my favorite specialty coffee shops that make me feel like Phoenix is home.

IMG_1416.JPG

The event also draws local photographers who are passionate about coffee and capturing other art forms. This article features the photography of the very talented Kristine Morgan (http://kristinemorgan.com).

IMG_1557.JPG

Another local photographer capturing the night and worth mentioning is a close friend of mine that is a talented film photographer and videographer: Will Fryar (http://willfryar.com/mobile).

IMG_1443.JPG

It’s exciting to see our local community grow as we bond and support each other over our artistic expression. Definitely a sight in Phoenix I love seeing.

IMG_1457.JPG